PART TEN: AT THE FRONT
DICK AND I were on our way to the first battalion.
The real War, that big bullying bogey, had
stood up and beckoned to us at last, and now the
Base Camp was behind us with its overcrowded dis-
comforts that were unmitigated by esprit de corps.
Still more remote, the sudden shock of being up-
rooted from the Camp at Clitherland, and the strained
twenty-four hours in London before departure. For
the first time in our lives we had crossed the Channel.
We had crossed it in bright moonlight on a calm sea-
Dick and I sitting together on a tarpaulin cover in the
bow of the boat, which was happily named Victoria.
Long after midnight we had left Folkestone; had
changed our course in an emergency avoidance of
Boulogne (caused by the sinking of a hospital ship,
we heard afterwards), had stared at Calais harbour,
and seen sleepy French faces in the blear beginnings
of November daylight. There had been the hiatus
of uncertainty at Etaples (four sunless days of north
wind among pine-trees), while we were waiting to
be "posted" to our battalion. And now, in a soiled
fawn-coloured first-class compartment, we clanked
and rumbled along and everything in the world was
behind us. ...
Victoria Station: Aunt Evelyn's last, desperately
forced smile; and Dick's father, Canon Tiltwood,